Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Even before tomato warning, many Americans lacked confidence in the food safety system

16.06.2008
Many concerned about imported foods from China, Mexico

A new national study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health Project on the Public and Biological Security finds that, in spite of a number of food safety incidents in recent years, most Americans remain confident that the food produced in the United States is safe. However, many have concerns about the safety of imported food produced in some other countries. They also do not have high levels of confidence in parts of the U.S. food safety system and some of the organizations involved.

The poll found that a majority of Americans believe that the food produced in the U.S. is either very (37%) or somewhat (58%) safe. Only 4% thought US-produced foods were unsafe. When asked about foods available in the U.S. but produced in other countries, fewer than one in ten (6%) considered foods from Canada to be unsafe. In contrast, almost half of Americans (47%) thought food from Mexico was unsafe, and 56% thought this about food from China. Possibly responding to these concerns, about half (53%) of Americans reported at least sometimes looking for information about what countries foods come from when shopping for groceries.

Although most American see U.S.-produced food as relatively safe, they do have some reservations about the groups involved in food production and provision. Majorities have only some or very little confidence in meat producers (58%) or restaurants (55%) to keep food safe, while substantial minorities say this about grocery stores (41%) and fruit and vegetable growers (39%). In addition, Americans have some concerns about the government food inspection system: 52% have only some or very little confidence in the inspection system to keep food safe.

"With growing globalization of the food supply, Americans are likely to worry more about the safety of the food they eat. At the moment, many are not confident that the system for protecting their food is working as well as it should," said Robert J. Blendon, professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Full topline results and Powerpoint charts are available online.

Over a third of Americans (38%) worry about getting ill from the food they eat. Concern was greater among certain groups: Hispanics (55%) and African-Americans (46%) were more likely than whites (32%) to be worried, and women (45%) were more likely than men (30%).

The poll also found high levels of awareness of the major food recalls that have occurred in recent years. Nine in ten Americans had heard about food being recalled in the last two years.* About eight in ten (82%) specifically remember the ground beef recall, 74% the spinach recall, and 55% the peanut butter recall. Of those who remembered at least one of these recalls, eight in ten (80%) avoided eating the food involved in the recall, about half (52%) contacted relatives or friends to make sure they knew about the recall, and 39% searched for further information about the recall. In addition to protecting themselves during food recalls, Americans take action to protect themselves from potentially unsafe food when eating out. Of the 59% of Americans who ever read restaurant inspection notices in their local newspapers, 88% reported they avoid those restaurants that have been cited for violations. At home, a majority of Americans (86%) attempt to reduce the risk from food-borne illness by often washing fruits and vegetables.

The poll, conducted before the recent FDA warning about the salmonella threat posed by some fresh tomatoes, found that a substantial proportion of Americans know what salmonella is and worry about it. About six in ten (62%) reported that they knew what salmonella was, and almost four in ten (37%) were worried that they or a family member might become ill from it in the next year. African-Americans (43%) and Hispanics (45%) were more likely than whites (32%) to be worried. Women (40%) were more likely to be worried than men (33%).

"Even before the FDA issued the recent warning about fresh tomatoes contaminated with salmonella, a large number of Americans knew about the threat of salmonella to food safety and were specifically worried about it," said Blendon. "This indicates that the recent outbreak is likely to be of serious concern to many people."

In addition, large numbers reported knowing about other specific types of food-borne illness: 62% said they knew what E. coli was, 58% mad cow, and 47% botulism. Almost four in ten (37%) were worried that they or a family member might become ill from E. coli in the next year, 27% about mad cow disease, and 20% about botulism. There was some confusion over the role that cooking food might play in protecting people from becoming sick from food-borne illnesses. While majorities knew that cooking food thoroughly would protect against salmonella (68%) and E. coli (61%), 41% of respondents incorrectly believed that cooking could protect against botulism, and a third that cooking could protect against mad cow (32%).

Some aspects of the food system are perceived by Americans to be less safe than others. When asked about some of the places where they might get their food, strong majorities of Americans considered food to be at least somewhat risky if it came from street vendors and pushcarts (88%), buffet restaurants (76%), salad bars (74%) or fast food restaurants (72%), while food from school cafeterias (48%), home kitchens (44%), or farmer's markets (44%) were considered risky by the lowest number of Americans. As for particular foods that might pose safety concerns, those perceived by the largest numbers to be at least somewhat risky were raw fish or sushi (82%) and hamburgers cooked rare or medium rare (80%), while those perceived by the lowest numbers to be risky were raw fruits and vegetables (36%), bean or alfalfa sprouts (36%), milk and cheese products (35%), and infant formula (35%).

"For many Americans, the outbreak of salmonella from tomatoes will be regarded as an unusual threat, because they generally do not see eating fruits and vegetables as risky," said Blendon.

Robin Herman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Graphene gives a tremendous boost to future terahertz cameras
16.04.2019 | ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences

nachricht Mount Kilimanjaro: Ecosystems in Global Change
28.03.2019 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

Im Focus: Researchers 3D print metamaterials with novel optical properties

Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>